The Just Shall Live By Faith

Taken and adapted from, “Christ, the Sun of Righteousness”
Written by, Ian Potts

 Untitled

“…As it is written, the just shall live by faith”
–Romans 1:17

THE Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans asks the question, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”

The answer he gives is “God forbid.” He asks this question because there were those who upon hearing the teaching of the Gospel, that sinners are saved by grace alone and not by their obedience to God’s law, concluded that if so that must leave the child of God free to sin. But Paul denies this emphatically – “God forbid.” Salvation by grace alone through faith does not lead to lives which remain in sin.

Some conclude from this answer that Paul is reiterating the importance of the believer striving to keep the law of God. They say that if the believer must not live a life of sin, which is seen in breaking the Ten Commandments, then he must have that “Moral Law” (The Ten Commandments delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai) as a “Rule of Life”. That the law, although not a means by which he might be saved, and although no longer cursing him if he fails to keep it (because Christ has already been cursed by the law in the believer’s place), nevertheless instructs him in how to live a righteous life and is therefore useful as advice or guidance on how to live before God – it is the believer’s “rule of life”, they say.

However this is to confuse what Paul is arguing for and to overturn what he has been saying from Romans chapters 3 to 5. Paul is teaching that God saves sinners by the Gospel by means of grace and that they then continue to live by God’s grace on a principle of faith. Their rule is not the law, but faith. Only by faith can the demands of the law be fulfilled.

But how can this be? If the believer does not set himself to reading the Ten Commandments and attempting to model his life upon them, how can he live a life which fulfils them? How can he avoid breaking these commandments?

Well, the simple answer to that is “through Christ”. The Gospel is all about Christ, about who He is, what He has done, and about the believer’s relationship to Him and his union with Him. The believer lives not by looking to the law but by “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” –Hebrews 12:2. He lives by faith looking unto Christ, being led by the Spirit by union with Christ who is “all in all”.

 The believer is “dead to the law”, his flesh is crucified, the rule of law over him has gone, not because the law is altered or “abrogated” but because the flesh has died to it and the believer is risen again in Christ the other side of death. He is a new creation, he has a new life within born of the Spirit. This is called the new man of grace. This new life in Christ is governed by a new law, or rule. This is the law of faith, or put another way, faith is his rule of life, for “the just shall live by faith”. Life could not come by the law, it only condemned. Because of the sin which is in the flesh the law became a “ministration of death”, a “killing letter” to men – it was certainly no rule of ‘life’! No, the law condemned the believer to death, it carried out its final sentence on him in Christ, and having died in Christ he is now dead to the law. It has no more to say to those who are dead to it.

But the just shall live by faith.

They are justified by faith; by faith they receive the gift of eternal life. This life is ruled by the principle of faith. Romans chapter five talks of the “reign of grace”. Grace reigns through righteousness and that is the righteousness of faith as revealed in the Gospel. Thus the Gospel in revealing the righteousness of God without law, and in justifying sinners by grace through faith, reveals all the believer needs to receive life from God and to walk before Him in righteousness. The Gospel and not the law therefore is the believer’s rule of life.

But how does the child of God know right from wrong if he isn’t ruled by the law one may ask?

How does he know what the right thing to do in any given situation is? The same way that Christ did. Not simply by turning to some lifeless commands written on stone (or paper) but by communion with God by faith. Christ lived by constantly seeking His father’s will in prayer. The believer also lives by communing with God in prayer, by looking unto Christ by faith, by seeking the Spirit’s leading. Yes, he reads the Bible and the whole of the Bible is useful for instruction in righteousness but it is by the Spirit’s guidance in the Bible, by His opening it up to him, His applying words from it to him on a daily basis that he learns of God’s will for him, not in a dry, fixed, unchangeable manner, but in a living way, suited to the changing providences of his life.

“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” –Romans 7:6

The new man of grace which is born in the believer is born of God, he is righteous like God is righteous. In the new man believers are “made partakers of the divine nature” 2 Peter 1:4, and this nature in itself knows instinctively what is righteous. Believers still have the flesh, the old man within them which is completely sinful, but the new man is righteous. The law was made for man in the flesh, not in the spirit. The law was given to condemn the sinner in the flesh, to show up his sin and to make him flee unto Christ for salvation. But when that man has been washed in the blood of the Lamb, the flesh has been crucified with Christ at the cross. In the eyes of God all that remains is the new man of grace because God looks at the believer in Christ who has taken away sin in the body of flesh which has been crucified. 1 Timothy 1:9 tells us “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners….” If so, then the believer is not under the law, it wasn’t made for him, and it isn’t his rule of life. No, he walks by a new ‘law’, the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:2, for he walks not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. As a just man he lives by faith.

“For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law then, Christ is dead in vainGalatians 2:21

 But can’t a believer walk by faith and still use the law as advice one might ask? Surely what it says is good? Yes, everything it says is holy, just and good. But it isn’t just advice – it’s law! – and it can’t be used as a guide or a rule of life. Why not? Because although the believer has a new life born of the Spirit, and although the flesh is reckoned to be crucified with Christ, nevertheless until the believer actually dies physically he still has the flesh dwelling within. The law is addressed to that flesh, but although it demands righteousness from it, in practice all it does is flare up sin in the flesh. The more it demands from the flesh, the more the flesh sins. So although what the law demands is good and spiritual, reaching even unto the thoughts and intentions of the heart within, the effect upon man is to produce more sin, to stir up evil thoughts within. The law always retains its curse and if a man strives to live by the law then he only brings the curse upon himself again. He is a debtor to do the whole law, but he can’t truly fulfil any of it! No, the only way to fulfil the righteousness of the law is to die to it, to be delivered from it, and to live by faith looking unto Christ alone.

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”Romans 6:14

The law demands works from man who cannot perform them. He fails to fulfil the law because of his sinful flesh. Faith however rests in the finished work of Christ who has fulfilled the law’s demands in every way. Christ has delivered the believer from the curse and the rule of the law to live in a new and living way – to live by faith. Faith submits to Christ, trusts in Him, obeys Him, walks by the Spirit who leads into all truth regarding Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is the object of the believer’s faith, not the law. He is married to Christ and is now dead to the law.

“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” –Romans 7:4.

The more the child of God looks to Christ, his husband, the more the new man of grace within him grows in grace and the more the old sinful flesh is subdued and mortified. By walking by faith the child of God finds a principal of life which actually results in the righteousness of the law being fulfilled and sin no longer having the dominion which it once had in his life. This is a life lived entirely by faith, not in man’s strength but in the Spirit, by grace alone. The work is all of God. Oh, what amazing grace there is in the Gospel of Christ! How it is the “power of God unto salvation”!

May all God’s people ever turn from the works of the law, from the arm of the flesh, from all boasting in self and their own works, to rest by faith in the finished work of Christ, looking unto Him alone, who has delivered them from the power of sin, death, and Hell, to give them newness of life in Him, that they might have eternal life, the divine nature, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, in the reign of grace!

 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” –Romans 8:1-5

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” –Galatians 6:14-16

What is the difference between original sin and imputed sin?

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The terms “original sin” and “imputed sin” refer to the two main effects that Adam’s sin had on the human race.

First, as a result of Adam’s sin we all enter the world with a fallen nature. This is original sin–the sinful tendencies, desires, and dispositions in our hearts with which we are all born. Thus, original sin is something inherent in us–it is a morally ruined character. The original sin that we are all born with manifests itself throughout our lives in actual sins–the actions, thoughts, and feelings we have that violate God’s moral commands. So our sinful hearts (original sin) cause us to make sinful choices, think sinful thoughts, and feel sinful feelings (actual sins). We are not sinners because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners. We are all born totally imprisoned in original sin. There is no island of goodness left in us.

Second, the guilt of Adam’s sin is credited not just to Adam himself, but to us all. We are regarded as having sinned in Adam, and hence as deserving of the same punishment. This is imputed sin. Thus, we not only receive polluted and sinful natures because of Adam’s sin (original sin), but we are also regarded as having sinned in Adam such that we are guilty of his act as well (imputed sin). Imputed sin is the ruin of our standing before God and is thus not an internal quality but an objective reckoning of guilt, whereas original sin is the ruin of our character and thus is a reference to internal qualities. Both original sin and imputed sin place us under the judgment of God.

Since the consequences of Adam’s sin are twofold (original sin and imputed sin), the remedy of our salvation is also twofold.

John Piper writes:

So we have seen two things that need a remedy. One is our sinful nature that enslaves us to sin, and the other is our original guilt and condemnation that is rooted not first in our individual sinning but in our connection with Adam in his sin. The book of Romans—indeed the whole Bible— is the story of how God has worked in history to remedy these two problems. The problem of our condemnation in Adam God remedies through justification in Christ. The problem of our corruption and depravity he remedies through sanctification by the Spirit. Or to put it another way: The problem of our legal guilt and condemnation before God is solved by his reckoning to us the righteousness Christ; and the problem of our moral defilement and habitual sinning is solved by his purifying us by the work of Spirit. The first remedy, justification, comes by imputed righteousness. The other, sanctification, comes by imparted righteousness. Justification is instantaneous; sanctification is progressive – and we will deal extensively with it in Romans 6-8, just we have dealt with justification in Romans 3-5. –John Piper, “Adam, Christ, and Justification: Part IV”

Posted by Matt Perman, 1/23/06

God’s Priceless Treasure

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“I find joy in your promise like someone who finds a priceless treasure.”
–Psalm 119:162

There is an old, old story, about a certain handsome prince…

…who became engaged to a beautiful princess to whom he sent a very magnificent gift. He sent this gift not just as a token of his affection, but to really let her how much she really meant to him.

A messenger was sent to the princess bearing the prince’s present, –which proved to be an iron egg. Whereupon the princess became very angry, and she sought to cast it upon the floor. But upon a second thought she began to examine it more closely. As she was looking at it, wondering what her fiance was thinking, she, by accident, touched a spring which caused the outer casing of this iron egg to part, –and reveal inside an egg of brass.

She quickly touched the spring to this, and the brass egg fell to the floor, leaving in her hand an egg of silver. And when she touched the lock again, the egg of silver opened, and disclosed a beautiful egg of gold. This egg too swung open, and a magnificent diamond of rare beauty fell in her lap.

Each time she looked at it, pleasant memories of the fiancee came to her, and also how each time she examined the gift, she had found within, a rarer gem. And so it is with the word of God, the world picks it up, and glances at it with the natural eye, and again casts it aside as dry and uninteresting. But when the Holy Spirit touches the heart, the outer casing falls away, and the convicted soul finds his own life pictured in a manner too unmistakably plain to doubt, and when the scenes drive the soul to Christ, the great Fount for cleansing sin, then the silvery lining appears. And when Christ lifts the great load from the heart then, the golden jewels sparkle on every page until earthly scenes are no more, and the rare pearls of the precious promises bear on wings of triumph the trusting spirit to the presence of Him who is the Father of all spirits. Therefore, “I find joy in your promise like someone who finds a priceless treasure.”

About the Magi: Thoughts on Christmas, and the Traditions on its Band of Scholars and Kings

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Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king…

Three-wise-men_2769…behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

tissot-the-magi-in-the-house-of-herod-719x596x72“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. –Matthew 2:1-12

3.kings1_Traditional nativity scenes depict three “kings” visiting the infant Jesus on the night of his birth, in a manger accompanied by the shepherds and angels, but this should be understood as an artistic convention allowing the two separate scenes of the Adoration of the Shepherds on the birth night and the later Adoration of the Magi to be combined for convenience. The single biblical account in Matthew simply presents an event at an unspecified point after Christ’s birth in which an unnumbered party of unnamed “wise men” visits him in a house, not a stable, with only “his mother” mentioned as present.

massacre_of_the_innocentsThe Bible specifies no interval between the birth and the visit. Traditional dates of December 25 and January 6 encourage the popular assumption that the visit took place the same winter as the birth, but later traditions varied, with the visit taken as occurring up to two winters later. This maximum interval is explained by Herod’s command regarding the Massacre of the Innocents which included boys up to two years old.

The Magi are popularly referred to as wise men and kings. The word magi is the plural of Latin magus, borrowed from Greek μάγος magos, as used in the original Greek text of the Gospel of Matthew (“μάγοι”). Greek magos itself is derived from Old Persian maguŝ and was the religious caste into which Zoroaster was born. As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science. Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term Magi to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic, although Zoroastrianism was in fact strongly opposed to sorcery.

Traditions identify a variety of different names for the Magi. In the Western Christian church they have been all regarded as saints and are commonly known as:

Melchior, a Persian scholar;
Caspar, an Indian scholar;
Balthazar, an Arabian scholar.

TheThreeKingsEncyclopædia Britannica states: “according to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India.” These names apparently derive from a Greek manuscript probably composed in Alexandria around 500, and which has been translated into Latin with the title Excerpta Latina Barbari. Another Greek document from the 8th century, of presumed Irish origin and translated into Latin with the title Collectanea et Flores, continues the tradition of three kings and their names and gives additional details.

One candidate for the origin of the name Caspar appears in the Acts of Thomas as Gondophares (21 – c. AD 47), i.e., Gudapharasa (from which “Caspar” might derive as corruption of “Gaspar”). This Gondophares declared independence from the Arsacids to become the first Indo-Parthian king, and he was allegedly visited by Thomas the Apostle. According to at least one scholar, his name is perpetuated in the name of the Afghan city Kandahar.

hymn_we_three_kingsThe phrase “from the east,” more literally from the rising [of the sun], is the only information Matthew provides about the region from which they came. Traditionally the view developed that they were Babylonians, Persians, or Jews from Yemen as the kings of Yemen then were Jews, a view held for example by John Chrysostom. There is an Armenian tradition identifying the “Magi of Bethlehem” as Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, and Gaspar of India. Historian, John of Hildesheim relates a tradition in the ancient silk road city of Taxila (near Islamabad in Pakistan) that one of the Magi passed through the city on the way to Bethlehem.

ImmagineThe Magi are described as “falling down”, “kneeling” or “bowing” in the worship of Jesus. This gesture, together with Luke’s birth narrative, had an important effect on Christian religious practices. They were indicative of great respect, and typically used when venerating a king. Inspired by these verses, kneeling was adopted in the early Church. Kneeling has remained an important element of Christian worship to this day.

Three gifts are explicitly identified in Matthew: gold, frankincense, and myrrh . Many different thoughts are given on these gifts but generally break down into two groups:

we-three-kings1. All three gifts are ordinary offerings and gifts given to a king. Myrrh being commonly used as an anointing oil, frankincense as a perfume, and gold as a valuable.
2. The three gifts had a spiritual meaning: gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense (an incense) as a symbol of deity, and myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death.

John Chrysostom suggested that the gifts were fit to be given not just to a king but to God, and contrasted them with the Jews’ traditional offerings of sheep and calves, and accordingly Chrysostom asserts that the Magi worshiped Jesus as God.

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 Source material taken from Wikipedia

The way to Heaven?

Written by J. C. Ryle.
Edited for thought, sense and space.

images“Neither is there salvation in any other:
for there is none other name under heaven given among men,
whereby we must be saved.”

—ACTS. 4:12

THESE words are striking in themselves. But they are much more striking if you consider when and by whom they were spoken. They were spoken by a poor and friendless Christian, in the midst of a persecuting Jewish Council. It was a grand confession of Christ.

They were spoken by the lips of the Apostle Peter. This is the man who, a few weeks before, forsook Jesus and fled: this is the very man who three times over denied his Lord. There is another spirit in him now. He stands up boldly before priests and Sadducees, and tells them the truth to their face: “This is the stone that was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

In considering this solemn subject there are three things I wish to do.

First, to show you the doctrine here laid down by the Apostle.
Secondly, to show you some reasons why this doctrine must be true.
Thirdly, to show you some consequences which naturally flow from the doctrine.

First, let me show you the doctrine of the text.

Let us make sure that we rightly understand what the Apostle Peter means. He says of Christ, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Now what is this? On our clearly seeing this very much depends.

He means that no one can be saved from sin, its guilt, power, and consequences,—excepting by Jesus Christ.

He means that no one can have peace with God the Father,—obtain pardon in this world, and escape wrath to come in the next,—excepting through the atonement and mediation of Jesus Christ.

In Christ alone God’s rich provision of salvation for sinners is treasured up: by Christ alone God’s abundant mercies come down from Heaven to earth.

Christ’s blood alone, can cleanse us; Christ’s righteousness alone can clothe us; Christ’s merit alone can give us a title to heaven. Jews and Gentiles, learned and unlearned, kings and poor men,—all alike must either be saved by Jesus or lost for ever.

And the Apostle adds emphatically, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” There is no other person commissioned, sealed, and appointed by God the Father to be the Saviour of sinners, excepting Christ. The keys of life and death are committed to His hand, and all who would be saved must go to Him.

There was but one place of safety in the day when the flood came upon the earth, and that was Noah’s ark. All other places and devices,—mountains, towers, trees, rafts, boats,—all were alike useless. So also there is but one hiding-place for the sinner who would escape the storm of God’s anger,—he must venture his soul on Christ.

There was but one man to whom the Egyptians could go in the time of famine, when they wanted food,—they must go to Joseph: it was a waste of time to go to any one else. So also there is but One to whom hungering souls must go, if they would not perish for ever,—they must go to Christ.
There was but one word that could save the lives of the Ephraimites in the day when the Gileadites contended with them, and took the fords of Jordan (Judges 11),—they must say “Shibboleth,” or die, just so there is but one name that will avail us when we stand at the gate of heaven,—we must name the name of Jesus as our only hope, or be cast away everlastingly.

Such is the doctrine of the text. “No salvation but by Jesus Christ: in Him plenty of salvation,—salvation to the uttermost, salvation for the very chief of sinners;—out of Him no salvation at all.”

It is in perfect harmony with our Lord’s own words in St. John: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6.) It is the same thing that Paul tells the Corinthians: “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:1) And the same that John tells us in his first Epistle: “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1 John 5:12.)

All these texts come to one and the same point,—No salvation but by Jesus Christ.

Remember that you are to venture the whole salvation of your soul on Christ, and on Christ only. You are to cast loose completely and entirely from all other hopes and trusts. You are not to rest partly on Christ,—partly on doing all you can,—partly on keeping your church,—partly on receiving the sacrament. In the matter of’ your justification Christ is to be all. This is the doctrine of the text.

Remember that heaven is before you, and Christ the only door into it; hell beneath you, and Christ alone able to deliver you from it; the devil behind you, and Christ the only refuge from his wrath and accusations; the law against you, and Christ alone able to redeem you; sin weighing you down, and Christ alone able to put it away. This is the doctrine of the text.

Let me show you, in the second place, some reasons why the doctrine of the text must be true. 

I might cut short this part of the subject by one simple argument: “God says so.” “One plain text,” said an old divine, “is as good as a thousand reasons.” But I will not do this. I wish to meet the objections that are ready to rise in many hearts against this doctrine, by pointing out the strong foundations on which it stands.

Let me then say, for one thing, the doctrine of the text must be true, because man is what man is.

Now, what is man? There is one broad, sweeping answer, which takes in the whole human race: man is a sinful being. All children of Adam born into the world, whatever be their name or nation, are corrupt, wicked, and defiled in the sight of God. Their thoughts, words, ways, and actions are all, more or less, defective and imperfect.

Is there no country on the face of the globe where sin does not reign? Is there no happy valley, no secluded island, where innocence is to be found? Is there no tribe on earth where, far away from civilization, and commerce, and money, and gunpowder, and luxury, and books, morality and purity flourish? No, reader: there is none. Look over all the voyages and travels you can lay your hand on, from Columbus down to Cook, and you will see the truth of what I am asserting. The most solitary islands of the Pacific Ocean,—islands cut off from all the rest of’ the world, islands where people were alike ignorant of Rome and Paris, London and Jerusalem,—these islands have been found full of impurity, cruelty, and idolatry. The footprints of the devil have been traced on every shore. The veracity of the third of Genesis has everywhere been established. Whatever else savages have been found ignorant of, they have never been found ignorant of sin.

But are there no men and women in the world who are free from this corruption of nature? Have there not been high and exalted souls who have every now and then lived faultless lives? Have there not been some, if it be only a few, who have done all that God required, and thus proved that sinless perfection is a possibility? No, reader: there have been none. Look over all the biographies and lives of the holiest Christians; mark how the brightest and best of Christ’s people have always had the deepest sense of their own defectiveness and corruption. They groan, they mourn, they sigh, they weep over their own shortcomings: it is one of the common grounds on which they meet. Patriarchs and Apostles, Fathers and Reformers,—all are alike agreed in feeling their own sinfulness. The more light they have, the more humble and self-abased they seem to be; the more holy they are, the more they seem to feel their own unworthiness, and to glory, not in themselves, but in Christ.

Now what does all this seem to prove? To my eyes it seems to prove that human nature is so tainted and corrupt that, left to himself, no man could be saved. Man’s case appears to be a hopeless one without a Saviour,—and that a mighty Saviour too. There must be a Mediator, an Atonement, an Advocate, to make such poor sinful beings acceptable with God: and I find this nowhere, excepting in Jesus Christ. Heaven for man without a mighty Redeemer, peace with God for man without a mighty Intercessor, eternal life for man without an eternal Saviour,—in one word, salvation without Christ,—all alike appear to me utter impossibilities.

The doctrine of our text must be true, because God is what God is.

Now what is God? That is a deep question indeed. We know something of His attributes: He has not left Himself without witness in creation; He has mercifully revealed to us many things about Himself in His Word. We know that God is a Spirit,—eternal, invisible, almighty,—the Maker of all things, the Preserver of all things,—holy, just, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-remembering,— infinite in mercy, in wisdom, in purity.

The blind man is no judge of the paintings of Rubens or Titian; the deaf man is insensible to the beauty of Handel’s music; the Greenlander can have but a faint notion of the climate of the tropics; they have no set of thoughts which can comprehend them; they have no mental fingers to grasp them. And, just in the same way, the best and brightest ideas that man can form of God, compared to the reality which we shall one day see, are weak and faint indeed.

One thing, I think, is very clear; and that is this. The more any man considers calmly what God really is, the more he must feel the immeasurable distance between God and himself: the more he meditates, the more he must see that there is a great gulf between him and God. His conscience, I think, will tell him, if he will let it speak, that God is perfect, and he imperfect; that God is very high, and he very low; that God is glorious majesty and he a poor worm: and that if ever he is to stand before Him in judgment with comfort, he must have some mighty helper, or he will not be saved.

I know well that people may have false notions of God as well as everything else, and shut their eyes against truth; but I say boldly and confidently, No man can have really high and honourable views of what God is, and escape the conclusion that the doctrine of our text must be true. There can be no possible salvation but by Jesus Christ.

Let me say, in the third place, this doctrine must be true, because the Bible is what the Bible is.

All through the Bible, from Genesis down to Revelation, there is only one simple account of the way in which man must be saved. It is always the same: only for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ,—through faith; not for our own works and deservings. You see it dimly revealed at first: it looms through the mist of a few promises, but there it is. But one golden chain runs through the whole volume; no salvation excepting by Jesus Christ. The bruising of the serpent’s head foretold in the day of the fall; the clothing of our first parents with skins, the sacrifices of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the passover, and all the particulars of the Jewish law,—the high priest, altar, the daily offering of the lamb, the holy of holies entered only by blood, the scapegoat, the cities of refuge,—all are so many witnesses to the truth set forth in the text: all preach with one voice, salvation only by Jesus Christ.

In fact, this truth appears to me the grand object of the Bible, and all the different parts and portions of the book are meant to pour light upon it. I can gather from it no ideas of pardon and peace with God excepting in connection with this truth. If I could read of one soul in it who was saved without faith in a Saviour, I might perhaps not speak so confidently. But when I see that faith in Christ,—whether a coming Christ or a crucified Christ,—was the prominent feature in the religion of all who went to heaven; when I see Abel owning Christ in his better sacrifice, at one end of the Bible, and the saints in glory in John’s vision rejoicing in Christ, at the other end of the Bible; when I see a man like Cornelius, who was devout, and feared God, and gave alms and prayed, not told that he had done all, and would of course be saved, but ordered to send for Peter, and hear of Christ; when I see all these things I say, I feel bound to believe that the doctrine of the text is the doctrine of the whole Bible. No salvation, no way to heaven, excepting by Jesus Christ.

And now, in the last place, let me show you some consequences which flow naturally out of our text.

There are few parts of this subject which seem to be more important than this. The truth I have been trying to set before you bears so strongly on the condition of a great proportion of mankind that I consider it would be mere affectation on my part not to say something about it. If Christ is the only way of salvation, what are we to feel about many people in the world? This is the point I am now going to take up.

I believe that many persons would go with me so far as I have gone, and would go no further. They will allow my premises: they will have nothing to say to my conclusions. They think it uncharitable to say anything which appears to condemn others. For my part I cannot understand such charity: it seems to me the kind of charity which would see a neighbour drinking slow poison, but never interfere to stop him; which would allow emigrants to embark in a leaky, ill-found vessel, and not interfere to prevent them; which would see a blind man walking near a precipice, and think it wrong to cry out, and tell him there was danger.

I believe the greatest charity is to tell the greatest quantity of truth. I believe it is no charity to hide the legitimate consequences of such a text as we are now considering, or to shut our eyes against them. And I solemnly call on every one who really believes there is no salvation in any but Christ and none other name, given under heaven whereby we be saved,—I solemnly call on that person to listen to me, while I set before him some of the tremendous consequences which the text involves.

One mighty consequence then, which seems to be learned from this text, is the utter uselessness of any religion without Christ.

There are many to be found in Christendom at this day who have a religion of this kind. They would not like to be called Deists, but Deists they are. That there is a God, that there is what they are pleased to call Providence, that God is merciful, that there will be a state after death,—this is about the sum and substance of their creed; and as to the distinguishing tenets of Christianity, they do not seem to recognise them at all. Now I denounce such a system as a baseless fabric,—its seeming foundation man’s fancy,—its hopes an utter delusion. The god of such people is an idol of their own invention, and not the glorious God of the Scriptures,—a miserably imperfect being, even on their own showing: without holiness, without justice, without any attribute but that of vague indiscriminate mercy. Such a religion may possibly do as a toy to live with: it is far too unreal to die with. It utterly fails to meet the wants of man’s conscience: it offers no remedy; it affords no rest for the soles of our feet; it cannot comfort, for it cannot save. Reader beware of it if you love life. Beware of a religion without Christ.

Another consequence to be learned from the text is, the folly of any religion in which Christ has not the first place.

I need not remind you how many hold a system of this kind. The Socinian tells us that Christ was a mere man; that His blood had no more efficacy than that of another; that His death on the cross was not a real atonement and propitiation of man’s sins; and that, after all, doing is the way to heaven, and not believing. I solemnly declare that I believe such a system is ruinous to men’s souls. It seems to me to strike at the root of the whole plan of salvation which God has revealed in the Bible, and practically to nullify the greater part of the Scriptures. It overthrows the priesthood of the Lord Jesus, and strips Him of His office; it converts the whole system of the law of Moses touching sacrifices and ordinances, into a meaningless form; it seems to say that the sacrifice of Cain was just as good as the sacrifice of Abel; it turns a man adrift on the sea of uncertainty, by plucking from under him the finished work of’ a divine Mediator. Beware of it, reader, no less than of Deism. If you love life, beware of the least attempt to depreciate and undervalue Christ’s person, offices or work. The name whereby alone you can be saved is a name above every name, and the slightest contempt poured upon it is an insult to the King of Kings. The salvation of your soul has been laid by God the Father on Christ, and no other; and if He were not very God, He never could accomplish it: there could be no salvation at all.

Another consequence to be learned from our text is the great error, committed by those who add anything to Christ, as necessary to salvation.

It is an easy thing to profess belief in the Trinity, and reverence for our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet to make some addition to Christ as the ground of hope, and so to overthrow the doctrine of the text as really and completely as by denying it altogether.

The Church of Rome does this systematically. She adds things over and above the requirements of the Gospel, of her own invention. She speaks as if Christ’s finished work was not a sufficient foundation for a sinner’s soul, and as if at were not enough to say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shaft be saved.” She sends men to penances and absolution, to masses and extreme unction, to fasting arid bodily mortification, to the Virgin and the saints,—as if these things could add to the safety there is in Christ Jesus. And in doing this she sins against our text with a high hand. Let us beware of any Romish hankering after additions to the simple way of the Gospel, from whatever quarter it may come.

The last consequence which seems to me to be learned from our text is, the utter absurdity of supposing that we ought to be satisfied with a man’s state of soul if he is only sincere.

This is a very common heresy indeed, and one against which we all need to be on our guard. There are thousands who say in the present day, “We have nothing to do with the opinions of others. They may perhaps be mistaken, though it is possible they are right and we wrong: but if they are sincere, we hope they will be saved, even as we.” And all this sounds liberal and charitable, and people like to fancy their own views are so.

Now I believe such notions are entirely contradictory to the Bible, whatever else they may be. I cannot find in Scripture that any one ever got to heaven merely by sincerity, or was accepted with God if he was only earnest in maintaining his own views. The priests of Baal were sincere when they cut themselves with knives and lancets till the blood gushed out; but still that did not prevent Elijah from commanding them to be treated as wicked idolaters. Let us beware of allowing for a moment that sincerity is everything, and that we have no right to speak ill of a man’s spiritual state because of the opinions he holds, if he is only earnest in holding them. It will not stand: it will not bear the test of Scripture. Once allow such notions to be true, and you may as well throw your Bible aside altogether. Sincerity is not Christ, and therefore sincerity cannot put away sin.

I dare be sure these consequences sound very unpleasant to the minds of some who may read them. But I tell you of them advisedly and deliberately. I say calmly that a religion without Christ, a religion that takes away from Christ, a religion that adds anything to Christ, a religion that puts sincerity in the place of Christ,—all are dangerous: all are to be avoided, and all are alike contrary to the doctrine of our text.

You may not like this: I am sorry for it. You think me uncharitable, illiberal, narrow-minded, bigoted, and so forth: be it so. That doctrine is, salvation in Christ to the very uttermost,—but out of Christ no salvation at all.

I feel it a duty to bear my solemn testimony against the spirit of the day you live in; to warn you against its infection.

What is it but a bowing down before a great idol specially called liberality?

What is it all but a sacrificing of truth upon the altar of a caricature of charity? Beware of it, beware that the rushing stream of public opinion does not carry you away. Beware of it, if you believe the Bible: beware of it, if you are a consistent member of the Church of England. Has the Lord God spoken to us in the Bible, or has He not? Has He shown us the way of salvation plainly in that Bible, or has He not? Has He declared to us the dangerous state of all out of that way, or has He not? Gird up the loins of your mind, and look these questions fairly in the face, and give them an honest answer. Tell us that there is some other inspired book beside the Bible, and then we shall know what you mean; tell us that the whole Bible is not inspired, and then we shall know where to meet you: but grant for a moment that the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, is God’s truth., and then I know not in what way you can escape the doctrine of the text. From the liberality which says everybody is right, from the charity which forbids you to say anybody is wrong, from the peace which is bought at the expense of truth,—may the good Lord deliver you!

I speak for myself: I find no resting-place between downright Evangelical Christianity and downright infidelity, whatever others may find.

I see no half-way house between them, or houses that are roofless and cannot shelter my weary soul. I can see consistency in an infidel, however much I may pity him; I can see consistency in the full maintenance of Evangelical truth: but as to a middle course between the two,—I cannot see it; and I say so plainly. Let it be called illiberal and uncharitable. I can hear God’s voice nowhere except in the Bible, and I can see no salvation for sinners in the Bible excepting through Jesus Christ. In Him I see abundance: out of Him I see none. And as for those who hold religions in which Christ is not all, whoever they may be, I have a most uncomfortable feeling about their safety. I do not for a moment say that none of them are saved, but I say that those who are saved are saved by their disagreement with their own principles, and in spite of their own system. The man who wrote the famous line, “He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right,” was a great poet undoubtedly, but he was a wretched divine.

Let me conclude with a few words by way of application.

First of all, if there is no salvation excepting in Christ, make sure that you have an interest in that salvation yourself. Do not be content with hearing, and approving, and assenting to the truth, and going no further. Seek to have a personal interest in this salvation: lay hold by faith for your own soul; rest not till you know and feel that you have got actual possession of that peace with God which Jesus offers, and that Christ is yours, and you are Christ’s. If there were two, or three, or more ways of getting to heaven, there would be no necessity for pressing this matter upon you. But if there is only one way, you will hardly wonder that I say, “Make sure that you are in it.”

Secondly, if there is no salvation excepting in Christ, try to do good to the souls of all who do not know Him as a Saviour. There are millions in this miserable condition,—millions in foreign lands, millions in your own country, millions who are not trusting in Christ. You ought to feel for them if you are a true Christian; you ought to pray for them; you ought to work for them, while there is yet time. Do you really believe that Christ is the only way to heaven? Then live as if you believed it.

Look round the circle of your own relatives and friends: count them up one by one, and think how many of them are not yet in Christ. Try to do good to them in some way or other: act as a man should act who believes his friends to be in danger. Do not be content with their being kind and amiable, gentle and good-tempered, moral, and courteous; be miserable about them till they come to Christ, and trust in Him: for miserable you ought to be. Let nobody alone who is out of Christ, if only you have opportunities of reaching him.

Thirdly, if there is no salvation excepting in Christ, let us love all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity, and exalt Him as their Saviour, whoever they may be. Let us not draw back and look shy on others, because they do not see eye to eye with ourselves in everything.

This is the true charity: to believe all things and hope all things, so long as we see Bible doctrines maintained and Christ exalted. Christ must be the single standard by which all opinions must be measured. Let us honour all who honour Him: but let us never forget that the same apostle Paul who wrote about charity, says also, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema.” If our charity and liberality are wider than that of the Bible, they are worth nothing at all: indiscriminate love is no love at all, and indiscriminate approbation of all religious opinions, is only a new name for infidelity. Let us hold out the right hand to all who love the Lord Jesus, but let us beware how we go beyond this.

Lastly, if there is no salvation excepting by Christ, you must not be surprised if ministers of the Gospel preach much about Him. We cannot tell you too much about the name which is above every name: you cannot hear of Him too often. You may hear too much about controversy in our sermons,—you may hear too much of men and books, of works and duties, of forms and ceremonies, of sacraments and ordinances,—but there is one subject which you never hear too much of: you can never hear too much of Christ.

When we are wearied of preaching Him, we are false ministers: when you are wearied of hearing of Him, your souls are in an unhealthy state.

When we have preached Him all our lives, the half of His excellence will remain untold. When you see Him face to face in the day of His appearing, you will find there was more in Him than your heart ever conceived.

Let me leave you with the words of an old writer, to which I desire humbly to subscribe.

“I know no true religion but Christianity; no true Christianity but the doctrine of Christ: the doctrine of His divine person, of His divine office, of His divine righteousness, and of His divine Spirit, which all that are His receive. I know no true ministers of Christ but such as make it their business, in their calling, to commend Jesus Christ, in His saving fulness of grace and glory, to the faith and love of men; no true Christian but one united to Christ by faith and love, unto the glorifying of the name of Jesus Christ, in the beauty of Gospel holiness. Ministers and Christians of this spirit have been for many years my brethren and companions, and I hope shall ever be, whithersoever the hand of God shall lead me.”
—(ROBERT TRAILL.)

A THOUGHT FOR MINISTERS: How was your sermon?

images (5)“It’s not a sermon until it gets to Jesus.”

      The best sermon is that which is fullest of Christ. A Welsh minister, when preaching at the chapel of my dear brother Jonathan George, was saying that Christ was the sum and substance of the gospel, and he broke out into the following story:

       A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he was done, he foolishly went to the old minister and inquired, ‘What do you think of my sermon, sir!’

      “A very poor sermon indeed,” said he. “A poor sermon!”

      “Said the young man, “it took me a long time to study it.”

      “Ay, no doubt of it”

      “Why, then, do you say it was poor –did you not think my explanation of the text to be accurate!”

      “Oh, yes,” said the old preacher, “very correct indeed.”

     “Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn’t you think the metaphors were appropriate, and the arguments conclusive?”

       “Yes, they were very good, as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon.”

       “Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?”

       “Because,” said he, ” there was no Christ in it.”

      “Well,” said the young man, “Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text.

      So the old man said, “Don’t you know, young man, that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there it a road to London?”

       “Yes,” said the young man.

      “Ah!” said the old divine, “and so from every text in Scripture there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And, my dear brother, your business is, when you get to a text, to say, ‘Now, what is the road to Christ?’ And then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis –Christ.”

      “And,” said be, “I have never yet found a text that had not a plain and direct road to Christ in it; and if ever I should find one that has no such road, I will make a road, I would go over hedge and ditch, but I would get at my Master, for a sermon is neither fit for the land nor yet for the dunghill, unless there is a savour of Christ in it.”

“The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”

“Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach.” 

–C. H. Spurgeon

 

The Prevalence and Awfulness of False Religion

Written by, John Flavel, Puritan, 1679.
Taken from, TOUCHSTONE OF SINCERITY, or True and False Religion.
Edited for thought and sense.

PoorestMan

“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich…”  

–Rev. 3: 17, 18.

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The members of the Laodicean church had a name to live, but were dead.

In regard to their spiritual state, they were emphatically described as lukewarm. They had drawn around them the form of religion, but never heartily engaged in the practice of its duties; they were strangers to its transforming efficacy, its living influence, and heavenly consolations.

To this lifeless indifference the Lord Jesus expressed his aversion: “I would that thou wert cold or hot, etc. The word cold, here, denotes the moral state of those who are wholly alienated from religion; the term hot, relates to the pious temper of those who fervently love Christ and his institutions; the lukewarm are such as are in reality also destitute of religion to be called spiritual and, yet, externally have, too much the appearance of it to be esteemed carnal. The form of religion they affect as an honor, or a safeguard; the power of it they Imagine would be burdensome: they choose not to appear openly on the side of error and impiety, but are more unwilling to live conformably to their profession: their policy is such that they venture little, and such is their folly, that they lose all.

In the text the Laodiceans are accused of being in this deplorable state, and a remedy for their spiritual maladies is pointed out.

  1. Their moral disease is exposed in its symptoms, its character and its aggravations.

    1. Its symptoms are formality, indecision, listless stupidity. Lukewarmness; with all the various traits of those professors of religion who love supremely their temporal interests and private happiness.
    2. Its character is thus noted: “Thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” All these epithets relate to the unsoundness of their foundation. The two first, ”wretched and miserable,” are general, describing their condition to be lamentable, if not hopeless; the three last, “poor, blind, naked,” are more particular, referring to  those great defects in the foundation upon which they were building, which rendered their state so pitiable and dangerous. Thou art “poor” –or devoid of righteousness and true holiness before God. These are the true riches, the riches of Christians: and he that does not possess them, is poor and miserable, howsoever large be his mental gifts or earthly treasures.  Thou art “blind” –without divine illumination, void of spiritual light; and so neither knowing the disease nor the remedy: the evil of sin, or the necessity of Christ. Thou art “naked” ” in a shameful defenseless, and exposed condition: without the garments of salvation, the robe of righteousness and shield of faith.
    3. The aggravations of this deadly Laodicean disease are thus stated: “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not…etc.”  Alas, to what absurdity and impiety does spiritual delusion lead! To be destitute of holiness, and without Christ, were sufficiently awful: but, while in this state, to boast of spiritual riches, is most miserable. To have the very symptoms of death, and yet confidently profess that we are healthy and safe, is lamentable indeed!
  2. A REMEDY is prescribed: ” I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich ; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.”

    1. Let us consider what is here recommended. These metaphors represent the most superb and valuable things. Gold tried in the fire–true holiness, Christian graces that have been tried and proved. White raiment–the righteousness of the saints. Eye-salve–the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
    2. Whence may these blessings be obtained? Buy of me, saith Christ. Ordinances, ministers, angels, cannot communicate them to you. Christ, the repository of all graces, alone can confer them.
    3. How are they to be acquired? Not by purchase, as those pretend who build the notion of merit on the words “buy of me.” The exigency of the case destroys this conceit; for what can they who are poor, and wretched, and miserable, and in want of all things, offer in return for these divine riches? Doubtless to “buy”, as the phrase is used here, is cordially to receive, in the way of his own appointment, which Christ offers to bestow. Thus it is elsewhere written: “He that hath no money, let him come and buy wine and milk, without money, and without price.”

In view of what has been said, three observations offer themselves to our consideration.

  1. That many professors of religion are under very great and dangerous mistakes in regard to their character.
  2. That true holiness is exceedingly valuable, and greatly enriches the soul.
  3. That we may safely account that only to be true holiness which will endure all the tests appointed for its examination.

The first observation naturally arises from the scope of the text, which is to awaken and convince unsound professors.

The second is suggested by the use which the Holy Ghost makes of the richest things in nature, to represent the unspeakable worth of Christian graces.

The third is derived from the very significant metaphor of gold tried in the fire; by which I understand a real work of grace, manifesting and proving itself to be such during the closest inspection, or under the severest trial. For whatever puts the reality of one’s holiness to the proof, whatever scrutinizes and tries it, is to him what fire is to gold. Hence we read in Scripture: “Thou hast tried us as silver is tried.” Again: “I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and try them as gold is tried.”